Baby books can drive you mad!
I did a lot of reading before my son Finn was born last April, and there were two questions that every book I read assumed guys needed answered: "Why is my woman acting so crazy?" and "So, am I still going to get laid?” Not only was this info useless, it was pretty patronizing. The simple answers are "hormones" and "not as much.” (Look at that, hundreds of pages of reading saved.)
Crying + Poo = Not So Terrible
Before Finn, I had never even held another baby, so I didn't know what exactly to be scared of. Still, crying and poo were the source of my fundamental anticipatory fears-not knowing what to do when the crying happened, and, well, everything having to do with the poo. It turned out, both were needless concerns. The crying is all about context — know that, know the fix. The poo is all about remembering that someone wiped your ass for a whole bunch of years, too, and you just need to get over yourself.
Mother Nature’s pretty damn smart
For the most part, Mother Nature is all about giving you ramp-up time. You get nine months of mental and physical prep before actually becoming a parent. Then, once your package is delivered, you're given something like a two month grace period to figure them out before their memories start forming and you might really start messing them up for life. They grow fast, but it's slow enough that you can always stay at least one chapter ahead.
Hospitals are a great source for (free) supplies
First, the docs and nurses will flat out give you a going-home kit. But then you can supplement that with as many swaddle cloths, binkies, beanies, breast shields, and diaper/burp cloths as you feel ethically at liberty of acquiring (I did not say stealing). They tend to be of very good quality, and believe it or not, I found that using the hospital-provided gear was a nice constant when I got home.
Who erased my memory en route from hospital to home?
In general, the transition home is tricky. I got so used to where everything was in the hospital, that the first few changes/feedings at home left me feeling like I’d never done it before.
I am a baby-feeding, diaper-changing ninja
Personally, I have Mr. T to thank for making it through the first two months: "Be cool, fool" became my mantra. Everyone talks about the first two months as being the most difficult-and it’s true. But I evolved from being a night time zombie that was slow to wake into… a baby-feeding, diaper-changing ninja. Essentially, it's about learning to be functional while dealing with sleep deprivation — no mean feat.
…I am a ninja who cries over a binky
I must point out that the difficulty of sleep deprivation cannot be stressed enough. Sobbing when a binky drops on the floor and skitters under the couch at 3 a.m. is not a normal reaction for a well rested person. However, sobbing in such a fashion is perfectly normal when you've had at most 90 minutes of continuous sleep for the last 6 weeks and said binky has dropped from an inconsolable child's mouth.
Breastfeeding is absurdly tricky.
Really, it’s amazing to me that we survived as long as we did as a species on breastfeeding alone given how difficult it looks. Very little will prepare you for it, and unless your partner is an earth goddess, there will most likely be misfires. There will certainly be tears for Mom and crying for baby. This is probably a good point to reiterate that your role as a dad will often be to act as a Zen rock garden of calm for mom when you're all operating on zero sleep.
Hmmm… So I’m not the only Stay-at-Home Dad on the block. Cool.
Being a full-time dad, I spend a lot of time at coffee shops with Finn while the wife's at work. I'm not sure what it was like before, but it feels like the Great Recession has thrust the primary-caregiving dad from avant-euro oddity into banal commonality. I'd estimate that the mid-day stroller-jockey demographic in my ‘hood runs 50% nanny, 30% moms, and 20% dads. I’d better start brushing up on the feature differences between the Bugaboo and the Orbit stat so I can keep up with the small talk.
So why, then, don’t public restrooms help us out?
SAHDs are still the minority, though, and there are always subtle reminders. Aside from the obvious, like Simalac’s theme phrase ( "Strong Moms”), and Dreft reminding us all to wash things that will touch the baby, including “Mom's blouses” (I took the liberty of using the Dreft on my white tank-tops and truckers caps anyway, I hope they didn't mind), Koala Care changing stations are placed tantalizingly out of reach-in the women’s bathroom.
Guest blogger (and SAHD extraordinaire) Tait lives in Venice Beach, California, with his wife and baby Finn.